China kicks off annual parliamentary session, military budget rises

A military parade is held in Inner Mongolia on July 30 to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army

Zhang sought to strike a reassuring tone in remarks at a news conference on the eve of the opening of the National People's Congress' annual two-week session.

But it opted for a significantly higher increase in defence spending at 8.1% over last year's defence budget, reflecting Beijing's rising military ambitions.

The government deficit is projected to be 2.38 trillion yuan (about 375 billion US dollars), with a central government deficit of 1.55 trillion yuan and local government deficit of 0.83 trillion yuan, according to the report to be delivered Monday morning at the first session of the 13th National People's Congress, China's top legislature.

One interpretation of China's current military posture is that the spending surge of the early 2000s improved infrastructure and gave the Chinese military force-projection capabilities it previously lacked; the new spending binge will give it world-class equipment and training, making Chinese units capable of holding their own against Western forces and close American allies like Japan and South Korea.

"Faced with profound changes in the national security environment", the absolute leadership of the military by the Communist Party must be observed, and unity between the government, the military and the people must always be "strong as stone", he added.

Meanwhile, Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet, has expressed concern over a hike in China's military budget which he said should be more transparent.

Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military commentator, said the rise this year was partly to compensate for personnel laid off as part of a recent reduction in the armed forces by 300,000 troops, while Major General Luo Yuan, vice president of the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association, said the budget was normal for maintaining the army, not a preparation for war.

Last year, the United States spent $642.9 billion on defense, the annual Jane's Defense Budgets Report revealed. It is conducive to uphold the authority of the Central Committee of the party with Xi Jinping at the core and also unified leadership. "What is unclear, however, is whether the United States will want to rise to that challenge", Roggeveen was quoted by Reuters as saying.

For the second consecutive year, the closely watched growth target for the world's second largest economy remained at the lowest since 1992, when China grew at 6%.

The report also said China would clamp down on the kind of financially risky operations which have threatened to cause the collapse of major firms.

China's "intent is not clearly understood", he said.

Yesui also pointed out that China spends less of its gross domestic product on its military than other countries. The defence budget of the U.S. which is the highest in the world amounted to Dollars 602.8 billion.

"Some [of it] will be hidden in civilian spending", said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The vote on China's constitution will be held on Sunday. "In some projects, the Chinese have committed to funding the projects by as much as with 85 per cent through soft loans that span 20 years", Buhari said last January.

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